Broad Run junior Mariah Leonard is the most talented player on the basketball court most nights when she suits up. But it wasn’t until this season that the power forward emerged as a vocal leader for the Spartans.

Leonard, averaging 21.6 points and 13.2 rebounds per game, can play any position if needed, from point guard to center. But it was during an early-season practice that her development as an on-court leader really picked up.

As Broad Run Coach Sean Gundry remembers it, the girls weren’t playing team basketball during the practice. During a break, Leonard turned to her teammates and instructed them what they needed to do.

“The first time she did it this year it caught me completely off guard,” Gundry said.

Leonard is naturally soft-spoken and has deferred vocal leadership to past teammates, such as former Broad Run guard Alexia Johnson a year ago. Now that Leonard is one of the veterans on the roster, she knew it was her time to break out of her shell.

“When I started out as a freshman I wasn’t vocal at all,” Leonard said. “I had the opportunity to play with the leaders of the team. I looked up tot hem. After they left, I knew I needed to fill that role.

“I had to get out of my comfort zone, but I needed to do it to support my team.”

Following a 60-51 loss to Tuscarora on Jan. 16, Leonard was one of the players to speak to the team in the locker room following the game. In control and leading at the half, Broad Run (9-5, 2-1 Conference 14) allowed the Huskies to score 26 points in the third quarter.

“I said our defense really hurt us out there,” Leonard said. “Our defense hurt us and we can’t let that happen if we want to keep winning. I know we can beat this team if we play good defense and play together.”

The Spartans responded with a sound defensive effort the next time out in a 56-39 win over Stone Bridge last Thursday.

As Gundry noted, Leonard’s emergence in this area has allowed him to spend even more time developing some of the younger players, including three sophomores that rotate with five players in the backcourt.

“The biggest thing for us is that as [Leonard’s] taken over the team, it’s allowed the coaching staff to make more adjustments around her,” Gundry said. “She’s blossomed into her role as the dominant scorer, the dominant player.”

Surging Stone Bridge extends winning streak

The Stone Bridge boys’ basketball team opened its season with a pair of frustrating losses by a combined six points. But the Bulldogs bounced back quickly, and they haven’t lost since.

Last Thursday’s 77-55 win over Broad Run was Stone Bridge’s 11th straight, and saw the trio of senior guards Julian Albizo (23) and Jason Jolly (20) and junior center Nick Barnes (19) combine for 62 of the Bulldogs’ points.

Stone Bridge (11-2, 3-0 Conference 14) was scheduled to put its 11-game winning streak on the line against Marshall Monday night but that game has been postponed due to inclement weather. The Bulldogs are slated to play against Tuscarora on Tuesday, though that game could be in doubt as well.